Midlife Dimensions


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Building Friendships

"People Who Need People..."

I have a sailboat--a sixteen foot catamaran. That sailboat can’t sail without me. It needs me to help it enjoy the water and the wind. In fact, it can’t carry out the purpose for which it was designed without me.

Friends are like that. They have abilities, strengths, visions and dreams, but there isn’t much in life that any of us can do without other people--our friends. We help them to fulfill their dreams and they help us. We enjoy each other’s accomplishments. What good would it be if you were the only person in the world? How empty life would be--how useless the expression of our abilities and gifts. God has given us to each other. We need each other to be truly human.

When I get to a lake with the sailboat on the trailer, I first rig up the mast and then loosen the sailboat from the trailer. There’s an excitement, almost as if the sailboat were alive and saying, "Thanks for setting me free." I back the trailer into the water. The sailboat rises majestically on the water while the trailer sinks awkwardly beneath the surface. The ropes on the mast begin to flap and the sailboat bobs, eagerly waiting for me to hoist the sail.

Soon we are on our way. I adjust the sails to catch the fullest wind. We pick up speed and the sailboat begins to sing as it gently raises one hull out of the water. We fly across the water and the sailboat in a sense is saying, "Thanks for letting me experience my potential."

When all of the world is breaking loose around you, it’s good to have someone to talk to, to lean on, to let you just be weak for awhile. You need someone who will give to you when you don’t have anything else to give to another person.

As you set out to build friendships, remember that you are important to other people as a friend and they are important to you. Look at some of these aspects of friendship.

1. THE VALUE AND PURPOSE OF FRIENDS. You become an enabler to your friend the way I enable the sailboat to sail. Through each other, you both accomplish goals and purposes in your lives.
Friends provide perspectives on reality. They see other sides of issues that you don’t see. They can encourage you to go in new directions that you might not tackle. They also keep you from making foolhardy choices.
Friends provide safety, retreat, and comfort. When all of the world is breaking loose around you, it’s good to have someone to talk to, to lean on, to let you just be weak for awhile. You need someone who will give to you when you don’t have anything else to give to another person.

Friends provide courage to face life, both its successes and its failures. Friends can also provide strength against temptation--the temptation to give up too quickly and the temptation to go in a direction that may be sin.
Isn’t it interesting that God is described as a friend that sticks closer than a brother? You need true friends like God and other people, and they need you. Settle the issue, that you're not going to be a loner. You're going to let people reach out to you and you're going to reach out to others.

2. PREPARE TO BE A FRIEND. Think consciously about developing yourself as a "friend" person. Read through the Gospels in the Bible and notice how Jesus worked with people. Pattern His patience, non-judgmental attitude, forgiveness, and acceptance. Jesus was harsh with some people, but those people were the self-righteous ones who felt they didn’t need anything in life.
Make a habit of looking into people’s faces and smiling a friendly smile that says, "I would like to get to know you," or "I’m glad I know you."
Try it in the checkout line at a store. Say, "Thank you, Annette," as you take the extra moment to read her badge and address her as a person. Probably not one in a thousand people do that. YOU help her feel like a person instead of simply a machine. But more important, you're developing your own sensitivity toward people.

Listen to people, not just for an opening to talk. Listen to understand their lives--their dreams--their frustrations. Try to see life through their eyes. In a sense, sit where they sit and walk in their shoes.

You can also prepare yourself for friendship by being a consistent and trustworthy person. In short, your friends should be able to depend on you. Your stability will draw people toward you.

Think of friendship as a lifetime relationships not just an association for a few months or years. Thinking long-term will help you make those extra investments of time and emotional energy in people’s lives. After all you're going to spend eternity together, if you're both believers.

Also remember that you were born a friendly person. If you're shy now, you learned to be that way. By practicing friendship now, you can relearn to be a friendly person.

3. MEN’S PROBLEM--SUPERFICIAL FRIENDS. In the book, The Friendless American Male, David Smith says, "Women seem to have a monopoly on meaningful, intimate relationships.... Men have friendships which relate to work or play, but seldom go beyond the surface...." Smith is saying that men are buddies, but are not deep friends. They are with each other, but they do not share their inner selves with each other. They play together, but then do not expose their personal problems to one another. They share problems outside of themselves, but not themselves.

One of the reasons that American males may not share themselves with anyone is that they are competitive. For example, on a football team each player is ranked in his respective position, and there’s competition to hold that position. The same is true in an orchestra where there is first seat violin and second seat violin. Business constantly rates people by success, dollars, or growth.

But friendship demands vulnerability, sharing and openness--the very opposite of competition. Men are trained to be competitive, not friends.
Another problem for men is that they are political in their relationships. They think, "What can this person do for me?" or "How can I help that person get ahead so that later he will help me?" Men are great team players. They help others and count on others to help them. But they have not learned to give themselves in love or to receive love. Their relationships consist of bartering, or trading, rather than vulnerability and openness.
This is a special problem for the midlife man. As he moves into his middle years, he experiences a growing urgency for intimacy--a need to be known by other people--to share feelings and to hear others’ feelings. The growing intimacy of the midlife man is very positive and helps round him out and cause him to more fully be the person God wants.

4. GOD INTENDED FOR US TO BE FRIENDS. The American concept of the spiritual life is that we are saved as an individual. We have a personal separate islands in the middle of an ocean.

God, however, planned for us to relate to each other very differently. He uses a building to describe the relationships we ought to have. The stone walls of this building are made so that each stone is carefully cut to fit the other stones around it. Every stone depends on the others and supports the others. (See Ephesians 2:20-23.)

God also describes us as a bride and groom deeply committed in love to each other. Each mate gives in order to care for the other. (Ephesians 5) In fact, the image of the bride and groom is used to characterize our relationships to Christ and is the model we are to follow in relating to each other.

The Bible also describes us as a body. Each part of the body is very different and unique, yet each part of the body is to contribute to each other body member. Remember, the body is successful as a whole, or fails as a whole, not just as individual parts. I Corinthians 12 tells us clearly that if one part of the body succeeds, we all succeed. If one part in the body fails, we all fail. You see, we really do need each other!
Friendship is not an option--it is part of God’s plan. In fact, without friendship, we are really subhuman, maybe even lower than wild animals who establish some sort of relationships.

Remember Jesus’ command, "Love one another even as I have loved you." Now the question is, "Whom do you really love?" Or, "What can you do to build a love relationships?" Or, "What will you do today to fulfill this command of Christ?"
quiet time. We struggle through personal growth alone. And we confess our sin to God alone. We Americans function as


A. Listen to people--especially for their feelings. Encourage them to talk by your attentiveness, your expression of interest, and by keeping the conversation focused on them, not on you.

B. Enable them, like my sailboat, to fulfill their dreams and ambitions. You may not be able to do much directly, but you can encourage them, pray, and give them hope to go for their dreams.

C. Give stability to your friends. Let them know that you are there when they need you, when they feel lonely, or when everything is coming apart. Let them know you are there for them.

D. Give them perspective. Help them to see a broader picture then what they might be seeing. What are the alternatives or other options that they may not see?

E. Commit yourself to long-term relationships. If you are in your thirties, plan on knowing this person in your forties, fifties, and sixties. Plan on living life together and growing old as friends. Each stage along the way your friend will have changing needs. He will become, in a sense, a different person. Your lifelong commitment to him will provide the needed stability that is so often missing in our fast-paced world.

F. Think of specific areas in which your friend may be struggling. Now take those issues to God in prayer for your friend. Ask God to work deeply in your friend's life, to give insight for the future, and to heal anything in the past.

John Powell has said, "We know ourselves as we see ourselves in the eyes of a loving friend." Jesus said, "By this shall all men know that you are my disciples because you love one another." John 13:35

The following verse, written by a university student may help you as you seek to reach out in a friendship to other people and as you let other people reach out to you.

I want to thank you Lord,
for some special people that I love,
special people who love me
just because I’m me,
people who believe
that I’m important, as I am,
people who can stand me
even when I’m sour and disgusting,

People who listen
when I spit out my feelings,
people who wait
when I cannot find the words,
people who shake me
when my spirit falls asleep.

Those are the people,
one today, one tomorrow,
who look for
that part of me that’s me,
who groan with me
until that part of me is free
who will love
whatever is left of me
when the day is over.

For one like that, Lord
means more to me
than anything on earth,
for through someone like that
I see that You are true.
And when someone like that
Accepts me in my sorry little mess,
then I believe that You accept me, Lord.
So I want to thank you, Lord,
for that special love you give
through those very special people,
and for that special love you give,
when you say someone like me
is also very special to You.

Adapted from "Some Very Special People,"
by Norman Habel, Interrobang!

Conway / Farrel Articles ~    Reprint by permission only,  ©2011

Midlife Dimensions ~ www.Midlife.com


The Conways and Farrels are international speakers and popular authors.

Midlife Dimensions is a ministry founded by the Conways and continued by the Farrels.